LANCASTER – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today joined with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Aging, along with human service organizations and utilities, to mark the start of the application process for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), for the 2017-18 winter heating season.

LIHEAP aids with home heating bills to keep low-income Pennsylvanians warm and safe during the winter months. Crisis and regular LIHEAP grants begin Nov. 1, 2017 and continue through April 1, 2018.

“LIHEAP is an important tool for helping Pennsylvania families stay warm and safe during the winter, and the PUC has a long history of supporting this important service,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “Now is the time for consumers to enroll in LIHEAP, as well as to also explore the programs that are available from their utilities or from various non-profit groups.”

Detailed information about the LIHEAP program, along with links to online and printable application forms, are available by visiting the LIHEAP section of the DHS website or by calling the DHS LIHEAP hotline, at 1-866-857-7095. Paper applications are also available through local county assistance offices.

“This federally funded program provided hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians a warm place to live during last winter,” said Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Teresa Miller. “That number includes thousands of the commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens including elderly, children, and individuals living with a disability. The Wolf Administration is proud of the work the program provides and encourages recipients who need assistance with heating bills to apply before the worst of the winter weather arrives.”

In addition to making use of LIHEAP assistance, the PUC encourages consumers to contact their utilities for more information about various utility-operated Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs) that may be available.

“Every year, utilities under the PUC’s jurisdiction spend about $400,000 on customer assistance programs, not counting LIHEAP, including payment programs to reduce monthly energy bills; weatherization and other improvements to cut energy consumption; and hardship programs,” Chairman Brown noted. “Collectively, these utility programs reach more than 300,000 electric customers and over 160,000 natural gas customers across the state.”

Every year, as part of the PUC’s “Prepare Now” campaign, the Commission highlights programs that help Pennsylvania families prepare for winter weather and higher heating bills. The Prepare Now campaign educates consumers about the availability of low-income programs; increases awareness of ways to reduce winter heating costs; and educates consumers on energy conservation.  It also encourages consumers to review their electric and natural gas bills and supplier contracts, while informing them about PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com as resources to shop for energy services.

The PUC’s Prepare Now campaign encourages consumers on limited or fixed incomes to call their utility about programs to help heat their homes or pay their energy bills such as CAPs and Low Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURP). It also appeals to the companies to increase efforts to educate consumers about other programs, such as LIHEAP.

Consumer outreach specialists from the PUC are active across the state, conducting or participating in workshop events, free seminars, roundtable discussions and community fairs. During those events, plain language materials and literature designed to educate consumers about assistance programs and their rights are handed out. Materials include information on consumer rights in dealing with terminations and reconnections, available low-income programs and tips on how to “Prepare Now” for winter. For more information on hosting a PUC consumer outreach specialist at a community event, please call 717-787-5722.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility.  “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.